Ethiopia – innovation against the odds

Adrian Ristow

This message comes to us from Adrian in Addis Ababa, where he
recently spent a day meeting some of the independent local distributors
working on the Manual Distribution Centre (MDC) model that Coca-Cola has promoted. Although their main focus for analysis is Tanzania,
they were guided to gather some comparative data from Ethiopia where
the distribution model seems to be working best. Hence Adrian’s trip.

“Mubarek is an MDC owner and his team in Addis Ababa were all
previously unemployed. I met them at their distribution centre and
heard all about their successes, the issues they face and their opinion
on how we could improve their lives and the lives of the communities
they serve. It may come as some surprise that Ethiopia is where this
distribution model was conceptualised: really exciting, as it breaks
some stereotypes about where models usually get developed. Ethiopia is
one of the toughest markets to operate in, but our Ethiopian Coke
Bottler colleagues have shown that it’s possible to rise above the

“You get to meet so many interesting people when you are out in these
countries. The harsh realities of what faces people living in areas
decimated by poverty hits you hard. However, I also get so inspired by
the resilience of the people and the lengths that they will go to to
try and better their lives and the lives of their families. I am also
really motivated by the positive intent of most employees at corporates
to play a constructive role. They often just don’t have the necessary
channel to do this and their lives are so busy that they don’t have the
time to create this themselves. That’s why projects like this are
really important.

“We know that this system is creating many new entrepreneurs and many
new jobs, but we also feel that there is a lot of untapped potential in
this means of distribution. One of the aspects which I know has created
the interest in Simon’s Facebook group is around how the distribution
system could be used for ‘greater good’. I am discovering that it’s a
bit more complicated than I initially anticipated as we are dealing
with independently-owned businesses. Local needs and conditions vary
quite a lot. However, the ‘in-principle’ commitment and level of
supportĀ  is fantastic both from the Coca-Cola bottler side and the
entrepreneurs. It will take a bit of time to find a workable model
but we are exploring far and wide, and I’ll bring you more news as
possibilities unfold.”


  1. […] meeting in the next blog post. When the meeting finished I was able to arrange to tag along with Adrian Ristow to see more MDCs tomorrow and then I spent the rest of the afternoon preparing for that. And the […]